Meningitis in your words

Deidre Nolan's story

  • Location: England
  • Categories: Group B meningococcal (MenB)
  • Age: Adult 25-59
  • Relationship: Self
  • Outcome: Recovery with after effects
  • After effects: Other
Deidre Nolan

It was February 11 2007 and I flew home from a ski trip in Canada.  I didn’t sleep well. My feet were like ice blocks; nothing would get the heat into them and I was sick a couple of times as the night wore on.  The vomiting wasn’t severe but it wasn’t right.  I went to a local GP practice and luckily was seen by one of the doctors immediately. Within minutes he diagnosed potential meningitis, rang an ambulance and administered a shot of penicillin.   He said to me after that he literally saw the rash coming up in front of his eyes.

"From there my memory of what happened gets a little hazy",- says Deirdre.

I do remember the ambulance staff were constantly talking to me so I would remain conscious, and I was wondering why they were saying this when I felt fine and there was no way I was going to sleep!  The fact that the doctor had said potential meningitis had not sunk in at all.  To be honest, like many others, I thought that it was a disease that affected children and not adults, and certainly not me – I was 39 years old.

We arrived at A&E but I have little memory of what happened next but remember shaking uncontrollably which was a seizure that put me unconscious.  All of that happened on the Monday and I woke up the following Sunday at around 6am.  I had meningococcal septicaemia type B, and during those days my family were told I was extremely ill and had less than four percent chance of survival.  I remember nothing of that week, a week that is lost in time forever and the fact that family and close friends went through a different experience than me, makes it very hard to understand or know exactly what happened and how it was.

The days following were filled with blood tests, chest x-rays, kidney dialysis, visits by medical teams, dieticians, and of course, visits from my family.  Tubes for dialysis inserted, removed, inserted again, a kidney biopsy, an ultrasound of my heart and MRI scans.  There was also lots of medication and bloods were taken each day.  Apart from the antibiotics there were tablets to avoid ulcers, anti-coagulant injections, anti-seizure medication, high blood pressure tablets, and at one stage the most disgusting anti-potassium powder drink!   There were also high protein drinks along with pretty unappetising food!

Deirdre tells: "All I wanted, probably like most patients, was to go home, to my own bed and some home cooking. I knew I would recover better there. They let me out on the afternoon of Monday March 12 – exactly a month to the day and the date that I entered the hospital."

The following weeks were spent in and out of both the renal clinic and a general medical clinic and of course had regular visits for dialysis.  

Gradually things became good; my kidneys improved and the dialysis sessions ended.  Only five small physical scars remain.  The days became my own again and gradually I was discharged from the various outpatient clinics I attended.  My last hurdle was to get the all clear and be able to drive again following the seizure I had. A year later I did just that.  I still suffer from extreme tiredness and have had to change my lifestyle to deal with that, but I consider myself extremely lucky.

I have recently become an Ambassador for MRF to help increase awareness of this terrible disease.  Meningitis can happen to anyone and knowing the symptoms and being informed can save a life.  I just want to share my story and give people the information they need to do just that.

Deidre Nolan
August 2012